Another excerpt with a holiday theme for me to share. This is from Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One. It begins with the Darcys waking to greet Christmas morning, proceeding through most of the day to give a glimpse of how Christmas was celebrated in the Regency as well as my vision for events at Pemberley. Enjoy!
Lizzy did not rouse at the knock to their door but did at the hoarse rumble of Darcy’s voice, felt as well as heard through his chest where her head lay. She stretched and nestled closer to his side, his arms immediately tightening their grip.
“Is it morning already?” she asked sleepily and yawned expansively.
“I fear so.” He nudged her gently, rolling to his side with her in his embrace until he could see her face. “Happy Christmas, Mrs. Darcy,” he murmured with a tender kiss as he stroked her hair.
“Hmmm … Happy Christmas, beloved. Must we rise straight away? Or do we have time to cuddle for a spell?”
“I believe an obligatory episode of Christmas cuddling is in order,” he said with a smile.
With a mixture of joy for the holiday and regret at departing their warm bed, the Darcys embarked upon their day. Lizzy joined her husband in their sitting room, having bathed and dressed, stunning Darcy as she approached in a resplendent gown of cream and emerald green taffeta. Marguerite had once again dressed Elizabeth’s hair elaborately, clips with emeralds and diamonds sparkling nearly as brightly as her fine eyes.
Darcy caught his breath and then smiled expansively. He took her hands, kissing each palm. “Lovely, Mrs. Darcy.”
“Thank you, Mr. Darcy,” She curtseyed. “You are quite dashing as well, husband. I believe Samuel and Marguerite are consorting again.” She laughed, fingering the emerald green waistcoat he wore.
“Heaven forbid we clashed. Come, my love, our guests await and I am famished.”
Traversing corridors and staircases abounding with greenery, ribbons, and candles, along with the surfeit of mistletoe balls, the Lathrops joined the Darcys and the Matlocks, all attired in their holiday finery. Christmas greetings flowed. Georgiana, Col. Fitzwilliam, and the Gardiners were already in the dining room partaking of the fabulous Christmas morning spread. Mrs. Langton had cooked three versions of the traditional Christmas pudding frumenty as well as a vast array of sweet rolls and pastries. Further greetings ensued as Darcy went directly to the coffee and then piled his plate with food, pausing for a tender kiss to Georgiana’s cheek.
“Happy Christmas, brother.”
“Happy Christmas, my dear. All is well, Georgie?”
“Very well. Shall be better still once I open my presents from you,” she teased shyly, earning a raised eyebrow.
“Was I required to supply a present today? Must have slipped my mind.”
She giggled. “Nothing ever slips your mind, brother. I have no fears.”
“Or is it that you have been peeking in the parlor again?” he asked with a stern expression, causing Georgiana to blush and stare intently at her plate. Darcy laughed. “Father was not able to break you of the habit, so I shall not try. Nonetheless, you must bear the anticipation along with the rest of us until after church.”
The modest chapel of Pemberley was an old yet beautiful structure located an easy distance from the manor in a small, unnamed village exclusively for the needs of Pemberley’s workers. In fair weather the family would walk to church. Today, however, although the sky was mostly cloud free, the wind was brisk and snow had covered the ground some two inches deep, so the carriages were employed. Lizzy had previously attended services twice with Darcy since their marriage.
The Bennets were fairly regular church attendees, although it was Mary who embraced the tenets of religion most strongly. Lizzy, frankly, had taken church and the Bible greatly for granted. That is not to say she was a nonbeliever, simply that her day-to-day life had proceeded with scant thought to Biblical principles. Darcy, on the other hand, had been raised in a family of staunch Anglicans and was deeply devout. His grandfather, James Darcy, Sr., had met the famous John Wesley and had embraced many of the Methodist’s views.
James Darcy had not gone so far as to publicly break with the Church of England, but he had striven to incorporate certain doctrines into the teachings at the Pemberley Chapel. He had secured their current minister, Mr. Lyndon Bertram, who was then a young man and a pupil of Mr. Wesley’s. The decision created a stir and minor scandal at the time, but James Darcy had that healthy dose of pride and stubbornness that seemed inherent in the Darcy men. Now, some forty years later, Mr. Bertram was an old man, yet hale and with no plans to retire any time soon.
The Pemberley party arrived at the church and was greeted by Mr. Bertram and his wife Sarah. Lizzy liked the elderly couple, Pastor Bertram being a serious quiet man of few words and his wife the quintessential grandmotherly type. Milling about the courtyard were the inhabitants of Pemberley and the nearby communities who attended services here. Naturally Christmas brought forth a substantially larger crowd than normally seen. Lizzy was amused to note Darcy assuming his Master of Pemberley pose, reserved, somewhat aloof, and serious, as he greeted people with a curt nod and isolated comments.
Georgiana, on the arm of her cousin, shyly greeted a number of the wives and children she and Lizzy had met during their visits. Darcy cocked one brow in pleased surprise and smiled faintly.
The church was decorated with holly branches and festive candles. The service itself centered around the birth of Christ, unsurprisingly, with carols and readings from the Holy scriptures as well as a short missive from the Book of Common Prayer and one of John Wesley’s sermons on the Epiphany. To the delight of all, the service ended with a short play recounting the story of Mary and Joseph searching for the elusive inn in Nazareth, live donkey and all, as performed by the children of the parish. It was thoroughly adorable, despite the uncooperative ass and the Christ babe who refused to cease wailing. The entire congregation exited with laughter and smiles of joy.
After church, visiting was brief due to the wind’s resurgence and the threat of fresh snow. Once returned to Pemberley, all retired to the warm parlor, Georgiana hastening to the pile of wrapped gifts in the corner. Darcy smiled indulgently at his sister, secretly pleased at her childish behavior as he was not yet prepared to relinquish his grip on her life.
A light repast of mince pies, scones, plum cakes, tea, cocoa, and coffee were furnished to stem the tide of hunger until the Christmas feast was served in mid-afternoon. Gradually the gifts were passed out, everyone wishing to take their time to prolong the enjoyment. Georgiana was not disappointed, her brother having procured several pieces of sheet music, a stunning brooch of aquamarine, three gowns, and new leather-bound journal with her name embossed in gold.
With extreme effort, Darcy had forced himself not to inundate Lizzy with gifts. He knew she retained a residual discomfort regarding his wealth, their wealth in fact, although she was hesitant to regard it so, and he sensitively acknowledged her delicacy. Therefore, he avoided jewelry or furs or anything else overly expensive, opting for personal items. He bought her books he knew she wanted, a stationery set with her new name printed on the letterhead, two gowns, a shawl of exquisite Chinese silk, and a letter seal with ‘E.D.’ entwined amid the Darcy crest. This latter gift brought tears to her eyes. The combination of her initials boldly and permanently displayed with the ancient family symbol touched her, lending a magnified reality to her station and the history involved. Unfortunately the setting was inappropriate for her to thank him as she wished, so she settled for a dazzling smile and fleeting caress to his hand.
For Darcy, Lizzy felt that luck had been on her side. Marguerite had directed her to a bookstore in Matlock and, after she introduced herself to the owner, he had diligently applied himself to obtaining whatever she wished. Then, while strolling randomly down the sidewalk, she had spied the perfect gift in a shop window. The remaining two purchases had been purposefully sought. Thus, Darcy was jubilant to unwrap three books he coveted: Admiral Horatio Nelson’s Letters and Dispatches, Walter Scott’s Tales of My Landlord, and a volume of poems by Thomas Gray.
“Elizabeth, how did you acquire Tales of My Landlord? It was published not a month ago!”
“I charmed Mr. Stevens. Promised him Mr. Darcy of Pemberley would inform all his friends how accommodating he was. Then I fluttered my lashes.”
Darcy laughed. “Well, however you managed it, I do thank you. This is wonderful.”
Lizzy handed him the smaller gifts: a new dressage horse whip and saddle blanket, and a waistcoat of pale blue to match his eyes, strangely enough the one color he did not already own. Her final gift rendered Darcy speechless. It was an eighteen-inch-tall, intricately carved ebony statue of a rearing stallion with a man mounted. The workmanship was unparalleled.
Darcy sat with mouth fallen open. Lord Matlock and Col. Fitzwilliam leapt from their chairs, converging on Darcy and the statue with combined enthusiasm and expressions of awe.
“Unbelievable!” exclaimed the Earl. “Wherever did you find this, Elizabeth?”
Richard was equally amazed and blurted before Lizzy could respond to Lord Matlock’s inquiry, “It is a Ferrier! You found a piece by Lambert Ferrier in Lambton?”
All eyes were on Lizzy, her husband’s breathtaking in the delight and love they showed. She blushed. “Matlock, actually, at that little shop on Second Street …”
“Landry’s establishment?” Richard interrupted in astonishment and Lizzy nodded. “I have never seen anything of this quality in there.” He whistled sharply. “Fortunate day for you, Darcy. Your wife possesses the luck of the Irish to stumble across a Ferrier in Matlock! Now I am truly jealous of you.” He smiled and winked at Lizzy. Lord Matlock was caressing the statue as if were made of gold, and Darcy continued to stare at her, his eyes teary.
Lizzy was flabbergasted by the response. All Landry had said was that it was a collector’s piece. Lizzy knew little of art, so even if he had told her it was a Ferrier, it would have meant nothing. She only recognized fine craftsmanship in a general way and had been struck mostly by the faint resemblance to Parsifal and her husband in the statue.
She smiled at Darcy. “It surely was blind luck, William, I confess. I merely thought you would appreciate the figure as it mirrors Parsifal and you. I may not particularly care for your horse, but he is an elegant and noble creature … as are you,” she finished in a whisper. Darcy was overwhelmed as the entire room faded from his consciousness. He leaned over, taking his wife’s chin in his fingers, and kissed her lightly. He met her eyes and was further lost. Only the abrupt sound of his uncle clearing his throat broke his concentration, and he blushed scarlet as he pulled away from Lizzy’s lips with effort.
“Yes, well, job well done, Elizabeth, well done,” declared the Earl as he resumed his seat, grinning broadly.